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Volume 25: Number 364

Sat, 25 Oct 2008

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Cantor Wolberg <cantorwolb...@cox.net>
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2008 20:55:05 -0400
[Avodah] Sukkah different to Esrog

R' Meir wrote: Has anyone heard thoughts regarding the seemingly  
contradictory postures of
the Mitzvah of Sukkah, in which one is exempt as soon as one is
uncomfortable as opposed to the Mitzvah of Esrog in which Hiddur is a
compelling duty?

It makes perfect sense. From going into the Sukkah under adverse  
conditions, one can end up
with pneumonia or anything else which might be harmful. Other adverse  
conditions might create
a sakana.
However, obtaining the best esrog could not be harmful to one's health  
(unless of course, you were so poor
as to not be able to afford a more expensive esrog). Therefore, under  
normal circumstances, Hiddur would
be very logical with the esrog.

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Message: 2
From: Michael Poppers <MPopp...@kayescholer.com>
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2008 20:58:21 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Free Will vs. Physics

In Avodah Digest V25#362, RAM wrote:
> How does this happen? How CAN it happen? If they had identical
experiences in the past, won't they make identical decisions in the
present? Clearly, they must have some sort of desire for this or for that
which had not been pre-programmed, because if everything *was*
pre-programmed, then what happens to responsibility? How can he be given
praise or censure for decisions that were pre-programmed? <
If we posit that "responsibility" (and anything else you care to categorize
under or associate with "yeitzer hatov") isn't present ab initio -- such
that when you try to go back to a person's time point "0," you really can
only go back to when a person acquires that yeitzer, at which time a
storehouse of past actions, experiences, etc. already exists -- isn't this
discussion inexorably altered?

All the best from
-- Michael Poppers via RIM pager
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Message: 3
From: "david guttmann" <david.gutt...@verizon.net>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 03:39:14 -0400
[Avodah] Sukkah in the BHMK

Nehemiah 8:17 we read:

And all the congregation of them that were come back out of the captivity
made booths, and dwelt in the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son
of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was
very great gladness.

I will never find it inside but years ago I saw a piece by the Steipler A"H
who explains the reason the children of Israel did not make Sukkot since the
days of Yehoshua was because Olei regel are patur from Sukkah under the din
of travelers. Only during the times of Yehoshua and Nechemiah, when they had
just arrived and all were together as residents around the Mishkan in the
first case or Beit Hamikdash in the later case, were they all Chayav in
Sukkah. It does not directly address the issue you are discussing but it
does somehow touch on RJM's reference to Archin. 

David Guttmann
If you agree that Believing is Knowing, join me in the search for Knowledge
at http://yediah.blogspot.com/ 
Ve'izen vechiker (Kohelet 12:9) subscribe to Hakirah at www.hakirah.org 

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Message: 4
From: "Moshe Y. Gluck" <mgl...@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 02:17:23 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Talmudic Process Question

R' Joel Rich:
The gemara in horiyot 6a discusses the issue as to the source of a ruling by R' Papa that "ein mita ltzibbur" by karbanot. 
In the back and forth, the gemara posits that one comparison is no good
because the case at hand deals with the beginning of bayit sheni and no one
who had sinned at the time of bayit rishon could have still been alive
then.  The gemara then rejects that assertion based on Ezra 3:12 which
famously records the crying of the zkenim (who remembered the bayit rishhon
) at the consecration of bayit sheni.

Question: What was the gemara's hava amina to posit an assumption  that
CLEARLY wasn't true? (the usual answer I give is that there was something
to be learned or differentiated by the assumption - but I'm stumped here)

The Hava Aminah is that only the sinners had died, but not everyone else
(the words "V'ha maysi l'hu hanach d'chat'u can be understood to mean
precisely that). The Gemara's answer is that no, the sinners were still

Lulei D'mistafina, I would say that the Hava Amina is predicated on the
assumption that it stands to reason that Hashem would have had
Nevuchadnetzar's army kill anyone who worshipped Avodah Zarah (see the way
Rabbeinu Chananel (bottom of 6b) puts it. I'm not sure that he's saying
that, but he might be). And I would say that the Gemara's answer is to say
that that assumption is incorrect and that we can learn a new P'shat in
Ezra 3:12, that the ones who were crying were the sinners from the time of
the Bayis Rishon, and that they were crying because of their sin of Avodah
Zarah in the time of Tzidkiyahu (especially if, as I think the Pesukim
read, the Korbanos from Ezra 8 were really being brought at the event
described here at the end of Ezra 3), and not that they were crying because
the Bayis Sheini was smaller than the Bayis Rishon (as the Mefarshim there


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Message: 5
From: Cantor Wolberg <cantorwolb...@cox.net>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 06:42:08 -0400
[Avodah] Kashrus Trains One's Self-Control

"Rabbis Berkovits and Isidore Epstein say similarly, saying that  
kashrut trains one in self-control."

Unfortunately, the facts do not support the above statement. There are  
many, many, many overweight individuals who are frum and stringently  
follow the laws of Kashrus.
Personally, I've known many O. rabbis who were more than 50 pounds  
overweight and had absolutely no self-control in their eating. One,  
who will remain nameless,
suffered so many health issues because he was morbidly obese. He ended  
up in a wheelchair before he was 60. Would that it were true that  
kashrus trained one in
self-control!  I'm reminded of several very frum people I know who  
were virtual chain smokers. However, as soon as Shabbos or Yom Tov  
arrived, they put down the
cigarettes and didn't smoke until after Shabbos or Yom Tov. I call  
that "compartmentalized control."  We also have the concept of menuval  
birshus haTorah which
has discarded the concept of prishus.

Kol tuv.
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Message: 6
From: "kennethgmil...@juno.com" <kennethgmil...@juno.com>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 11:46:27 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Sukkah in the BHMK

R' Zev Sero wrote:
> ... it was not at all their home.  They had to eat standing,
> because only malchei Beit David could sit in the azarah.
> This seems very different from "keva`" as in "beito arai
> vesukato keva`".

This caused me to think of a similar question: If several kohanim would
have eaten the mincha (or other bread korbanos) together, would they have
benched with a mezuman? Or perhaps this lack of kevius (standing, etc.)
might have prevented the zimun?

Akiva Miller
Take a break - you deserve it.  Click here to find a great vacation.

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Message: 7
From: T6...@aol.com
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 12:04:30 EDT
Re: [Avodah] Some thoughts on Shemonah Perakim

From: "Michael Makovi" _mikewinddale@gmail.com_ 

>>Another comment: we are brought to the vexed question of why  G-d
commanded the rational commands, if they are indeed  rational.<<

The answer to this is closely related to that  famous quote, "If there is no 
G-d, everything is permitted."  Even if  people know that there is a G-d, but 
He has not clearly said what is permitted  and what is forbidden, then 
everything is permitted.
Man is a rational animal who can rationalize away every crime.  All  
societies consider murder to be wrong, for example -- that's a very rational  
commandment.  Yet many people feel very comfortable with abortion, even  late term 
abortions and even when done in a very gruesome way (e.g., partial  birth 
abortions.)  Many people feel comfortable with performing "abortions"  even a few 
days or weeks /after/ the baby is born, if it turns out to be  defective or if i
t's an unwanted girl in ancient Greece or modern China.   There is a famous 
Harvard professor of ethics (!), Peter Singer, who openly  advocates infanticide. 
  Many Arabs feel very comfortable with honor  killings and have no qualms 
about killing a sister who has been raped, to save  the family honor.  Lots of 
people favor euthanasia to get rid of old  people, sick people, "useless" 
people, comatose people.  In the famous  Terri Schiavo case, where a woman was 
/not/ on life support but did need a  feeding tube, a Florida judge ruled that her 
life was not worth living and  ordered the removal of the feeding tube, and 
her slow death by starvation.   It took her days to die even without food and 
water, but the judge was  humane -- he ordered sedation for pain relief, on the 
off chance that a  brain-damaged person could feel pain.  In this, he was 
more humane  than the people who carve up babies in their mothers' wombs without  
To take another category of sin as an example, most societies throughout  
history have considered laws against sodomy to be "rational."  Only in  our 
generation did something that was always considered a mishpat turn into a  chok.  
Why can't a man marry a man?  In the past, such a question  would have elicited 
laughter.  Today people look at it and say, "Very  strange, the Torah is 
incomprehensible, but we just have to accept what we can't  understand because 
Hashem said so, hard as it is."

--Toby  Katz

**************Play online games for FREE at Games.com! All of your favorites, 
no registration required and great graphics ? check it out! 
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Message: 8
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewindd...@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2008 20:51:25 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Some thoughts on Shemonah Perakim

>>Another comment: we are brought to the vexed question of why G-d
>>commanded the rational commands, if they are indeed rational.<<
>>Mika'el Makovi

> The answer to this is closely related to that famous quote, "If there is no
> G-d, everything is permitted."  Even if people know that there is a G-d,
> but
> He has not clearly said what is permitted and what is forbidden, then
> everything is permitted.
> Man is a rational animal who can rationalize away every crime.  All
> societies consider murder to be wrong, for example -- that's a very
> rational
> commandment.  Yet many people feel very comfortable...
> R' Toby Katz

That's exactly what Rabbi Leo Adler is driving at. He says the Greeks
overestimated the power of the intellect, and assumed that education
merely needed to tell one what is right and what is wrong. The
Christians however underestimated man, and said he cannot be good, no
matter what. Judaism however says that man can indeed be good (owing
to his Godly soul), but that on the other hand, his intellect is
capable of justifying almost anything his vices and passions demand,
and thus we need the Torah, both for its everpresent laws (which train
and curb and rein-in and for its comprehensive mussar and knowledge of
human psychology.

I reflected further, and realized that whereas Rav Saadia Gaon asks
why we need the Law given our intellect, I'm simply asking the exact
opposite: why do we need our conscience and intellect if we have the
Law? My answer is the same as his, except in reverse: the Law provides
the rules of conduct, but our intellect and conscience guide us and
raise flags and call for further attention. Also, I think derech eretz
kadma latorah means that prior to the Torah telling us what is good,
we first must care about good, and have a general ethical sense and
concern for what is proper.

An example: I was reading Affirmations of Judaism (Rabbi Hertz),
specifically its essay on Hammurabi. He describes Hammurabi as an
enlightened despot at his best: Hammurabi says he was striving to
protect the widow and the poor, and that he wanted uniform justice for
all, etc. Obviously, he didn't achieve this. But the fact that he even
cared to try, and that he got as far as he did, I think illustrates
derech eretz kadma latorah. Had all the Babylonians followed Hammurabi
on this, and subsequently had Hashem appeared to them instead of us, I
could imagine them being Hashem's nation. This is all taking for
granted Rabbi Hertz's interpretation of Hammurabi himself, of course.

On the other hand, we've all heard of people who try to be unethical
within the purview of the Torah, and find loopholes. They're not
trying to do G-d's will, but rather to simply cheat and lie and steal
within the system without being caught. Professor Marc Shapiro as an
interesting take on this: see
, section 5, beginning with citing Rabbi Amital. I think all this
explains why a hasid must study Nezikin: not just the Bavas, but ALL
of Nezikin, including Avot, and not just Avot, but also the Bavas.

Mikha'el Makovi

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Message: 9
From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2008 21:28:34 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Some thoughts on Shemonah Perakim

On Fri, Oct 24, 2008 at 06:42:08AM -0400, Cantor Wolberg wrote:
: "Rabbis Berkovits and Isidore Epstein say similarly, saying that  
: kashrut trains one in self-control."
: Unfortunately, the facts do not support the above statement...

I think it's more accurate to say it gives one the tools with which to
develop self control. Water is a frequently used metaphor for water.
As the Gra notes, if you water a flower garden you get nice beautiful
flowers. But if you start out with field of weeds, all you get are
bigger weeds.

This goes to the core of my objection with this tendency among some
in "Academic O" (as RYGB calls the subtype of MO) circles to consider
halakhah a law with little or no motivational basis.

RSRH consider halakhah as educational. RYS as tools for transformation.
For that matter, the Litvisher yeshivos did as well, but the other side
of the mussar debate presumed the transformation happened mystically.
To mequbalim, halakhah are rules for coping with metaphysical realities.
AMong them, one's own composition, thus having a different transformative
role. Temimus vs deveiqus.

This notion that it's primarily to be viewed as contract law is new,
whether in its AO or "Rambamist" forms. Although the Rambam himself
dedicates half of the Moreh cheileq 3 to an opposing viewpoint, it's
clearly the stance of people like R' Chait.

Halakhah is a tool, and without trying to live up to the values spelled
out in aggadita, the tool is easily misused.

On Thu, Oct 23, 2008 at 09:27pm IST, Michael Makovi expressed this
: Kaplan disagrees; chapter four already taught us that the non-rational
: commands of the Torah serve as practical instruments to bring us to
: the Mean. Therefore, following G-d's heteronomous command in this case
: is not because we are to develop obedience to His inscrutable will as
: a value in and of itself, but rather, because these commands only
: indirectly affect the moral virtue, whereas the rational commands
: directly relate to moral virtue. Obeying G-d's command for the sake of
: obedience has little if any value for Rambam....

: Thus, Rambam shows that virtue is to be exalted over obedience; the
: ultimate value is rational virtue, followed by moral virtue, and
: obedience has value only insofar as it leads to these.

Because the Rambam followed Aristo's psychology, which stresses mind
influencing emotion. Today's psychologies -- both in mussar and in
the field of Psychology and confirmed pretty easily with a little
introspection -- note a stronger connection in the other direction,
people believing what they are emotionally invested in believing.

Change in middos through change in thought is slow, inefficient and

: I am inclined to follow the philosophy of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, as
: expounded by David Hazony in "Why Judaism Has Laws", in Azure
: magazine: Judaism, says Rabbi Berkovits, extols the practical
: sociological effect of the deed over the intent of the performer.

: Whether or not one is charitable in his heart is less important than
: whether he actually helps the poor. This is almost the exact opposite
: of Rambam, who extolled virtue over obedience...

To my mind, it's not an issue of the value of virtue but whether a given
halakhah is an expression of a vitue, or a tool for instilling it. In
boh cases, though, it's not obedience as an end in itself.

And therefore, I disagree with:
:                                          So while Rambam says virtue
: is greater than obedience, I'd say the opposite, BUT, I'd say that
: virtue is still a value, and hopefully, in the end, the moral virtue
: will catch up to one's deed...

Both the Rambam and your depiction of REB's position are about mitzvos
as a means to instill virtue more than expression. I see no debate.

And if I did, given what I wrote above about the lack of classical support
for a notion of halakhah-as-obedience, I would not rest comfortably with
it. Also, as we saw from the overweight rabbi, pragmatically it raises
more questions than it answers.

: Another comment: we are brought to the vexed question of why G-d
: commanded the rational commands, if they are indeed rational...

No mitzvah is purely rational. As I heard RYBS point out, even "lo
sirtzakh" as elements of choq. Abortion? Euthenasia? Brain death or heart
death? Without G-d's command, the rational mind hits limits at which it
lacks the postulates ("what is 'alive'?") to answer the question.

I think it's clear from Hillel's "el regel achas" that textual morality
flows from natural morality. The need for textual morality is that
sometimes the connection is beyond our ability to derive. In which case,
we're left with a simple trust that somehow parah adumah is an expression
of desani lakh, lechaverkha lo sa'avod. But Hillel says that it really
is connected.

Even those halakhos with no clear connection to morality do have an
unclear connection. Moreso, one can't pasqen in a way that violates
qedoshim tihyu, vehalakhta bidrakhav, veasisa hayashar vehatov... The
development of natural morality is itself subject of numerous chiyuvim.

Mussar excercises are often trivial. Is tzitzis any less effective than an
"A Complaint Free World Bracelet" <http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/>,
as seen on Oprah? Character reformation is the work of a lifetime;
it is thus more like whittling. Lots of small incremental actions.

What does it mean to be more in the image of G-d? More free willed (R'
Soloveitchik)? More giving (R' Shim'on Shkop or R' Dessler)? More 
balanced in the image of unity (Rambam Hilkhos Dei'os)? More attached to
him emotionally (Besh"t) or intelletually (Moreh Nevuchim)?

Note that even those opinions who (like I did above) define the goal in
terms of a morality do not say that all of halakhah is an expression of
that morality. Much of it is to create a person capable of being moral.
To impose, not express.

But regardless of what it is following halakhah is supposed to remake
man into, the following apply:
1- It requires many many tiny steps,
2- to the point that it will become total immersion in a culture.
3- Total immersion also requires ameilus baTorah. Study of an easy topic
doesn't force an encounter with the text, and the results are far less
internalized. Once my chavrusah and I get our understanding of the sugya,
we have that pride of ownership; it is *OUR* understanding.
4- The Manufacturer will understand the effects of some of those steps
in ways that we do not know ourselves well enough to comprehend. And in
fact, trusting that this is true is itself a sub-goal.

Gut Voch!

Micha Berger             Spirituality is like a bird: if you tighten
mi...@aishdas.org        your grip on it, it chokes; slacken your grip,
http://www.aishdas.org   and it flies away.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                            - Rav Yisrael Salanter


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